BRISBANE, Australia, Nov 15 (AFP) -A Sino-US breakthrough on reducing carbon emissions proves a global deal on climate change is achievable, US President Barack Obama said today, as campaigners hailed new momentum in long-stalled talks. Announcing a $3 billion contribution to a UN-backed climate change mitigation fund, Obama said the China-US deal showed the way [...]

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Obama pushes for world climate pact after China deal


BRISBANE, Australia, Nov 15 (AFP) -A Sino-US breakthrough on reducing carbon emissions proves a global deal on climate change is achievable, US President Barack Obama said today, as campaigners hailed new momentum in long-stalled talks.

Announcing a $3 billion contribution to a UN-backed climate change mitigation fund, Obama said the China-US deal showed the way forward.
“If China and the US can agree on this, then the world can agree on this — we can get this done,” he said in a speech on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Brisbane.

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the University of Queensland in Brisbane November 15. Obama is in Brisbane for the G20 Summit being held here this weekend (Reuters)

The UN and environmental campaigners welcomed the funding pledge, saying it confirmed global warming is now central to the world political agenda following the surprise deal between Washington and Beijing earlier this week to curb their greenhouse emissions.

Climate experts conceded that Republican opposition meant Obama could struggle to fulfil his $3 billion commitment, but said he was fuelling momentum for change in an area where talks have faltered since the historic Kyoto Protocol of 1997.

“You can sense the energy lifting in this critical conversation across the planet — the game has changed,” Greenpeace Australia chief executive David Ritter told AFP.

“A global deal has become more likely, no question. Climate is now front and centre for the US, it’s front and centre for China, that means it’s front and centre for all of us. It’s now up to all governments to build on these huge steps forward.”

‘Leapfrog’ dirty development

Obama outlined his pledge to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) in a speech at the University of Queensland, telling the Australian audience he wanted his grandchildren to be able to visit the country’s famed Great Barrier Reef “50 years from now”.

He said the fund would help developing nations cope with climate-related issues such as rising seas while also backing environmentally friendly infrastructure projects.

“(It will) let them leapfrog some of the dirty industries that powered our development and go straight to a clean energy economy,” he said.

Obama’s announcement stymied efforts by G20 host Tony Abbott — who questions the science of man-made climate change — to reduce the issue to the margins of the Brisbane summit.

“I know there has been a healthy debate in this country about it,” the American leader said, adding that “change is uncomfortable and difficult”.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described climate change as “the defining issue of our times” and urged other G20 leaders to contribute to the GCF, which will hold a donors’ meeting in Berlin on November 20.

“The transition towards a low-carbon, climate-resilient future is accelerating,” Ban, who will host talks in Paris in December next year aimed at reaching a global agreement, said in Brisbane.

“I urge other leaders and major economies, especially at the G20, to come forward with contributions that will sustain this momentum.”
‘Clear message’

The GCF is designed to help poorer countries invest in green technologies and build up their defences against rising sea levels and increasingly extreme weather patterns.

“To see the US put $3 billion into the fund is further evidence that they’re determined to see a global deal done by next year,” said Tim Flannery of the Sydney-based Climate Council.

“It’s a clear message to the world that the US has moved on this issue and it expects the rest of the world to move.” France and Germany have already pledged $1 billion each, with Japan reportedly set to announce a $1.5 billion donation this weekend in Brisbane.

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres has called for an initial capitalisation of $10 billion by the end of the year.

However, Republican James Inhofe, regarded as the chief climate change sceptic in the US Congress, signalled Obama would struggle to get the funds through the legislature, particularly after his position was weakened in recent mid-term elections.

“President Obama’s pledge to give unelected bureaucrats at the UN $3 billion for climate change initiatives is an unfortunate decision to not listen to voters in this most recent election cycle,” Inhofe said.

Michael Levi from the US-based Council of Foreign Relations said the US-China deal was a step forward but warned against getting carried away, saying it amounted only to “incremental” change.

Host Australia urges warm, first-name-only G20

BRISBANE, Australia, Nov 15 (AFP) -Just call me Tony: Australia’s prime minister tried to get his bickering G20 colleagues to loosen up at summit talks in the laid-back city of Brisbane on Saturday before hosting a barbecue lunch in baking heat.

The conservative Australian leader, who held a private leaders-only retreat ahead of formal talks that will focus on economic growth, energy security and tax reform, called for the high-powered meet to be open and friendly.

Peng Liyuan, wife of China's President Xi Jinping, holds a koala while on a spouse visit to a koala sanctuary during the G20 Summit (AFP)

“The people around this room are… the most powerful and influential people in this world,” Abbott told the likes of United States President Barack Obama, Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian strongman Vladimir Putin.

“We may not always be able to agree but I hope we can at least be open with each other,” he said, urging his fellow leaders to speak from the heart, not the “script”.

“And if we could use first names, that would be good as well. Because whatever disagreements we might have, it helps if there can at least be personal warmth amongst us.”

No beach for Obama

Brisbane’s G20 has been distinctly antipodean, with the leaders’ spouses taken to feed koalas and kangaroos in the morning today while enjoying a demonstration of sheep shearing, a reference to Australia’s wool industry.

Despite the sober nature of the talks, there have been light-hearted touches with Cameron joking about Abbott’s love of exercise and Obama referencing sharks and crocodiles in an address to a Queensland university.

“I love Australia. I really do. The only problem with Australia is that every time I come here I’ve got to sit in conference rooms and talk to politicians instead of going to the beach,” Obama said.

Angela Merkel was another leader taking the long-haul visit in her stride, charming locals by visiting a Brisbane pub on Friday night.

“We expected her to be ushered inside (the bar) really quickly. But she didn’t, in fact, she chose to come over,” one woman, who did not want to give her name, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“She was very kind. My friend said ‘Oh, can I get a quick selfie?’. She (Merkel) checked with her security detail, they gave her a nod and she popped in for a quick photo.”

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